Monday, January 28, 2013

Cultural Shakespeare

I attended the very last seminar in the Digital Humanities Symposium and it made me wish, keenly, that I'd been able to attend the rest of the panels. Sheila Cavanaugh and Kevin Quarmby gave an amazing presentation on their digitally dependent global Shakespeare program. A program that, because of it's rooting in technology, is able to travel all over the world. The discussion between Sheila and Kevin focused a lot on their programs in India and Morocco and the beginnings of programs they hope to offer to tribal universities in the United States.

What was most interesting to me was their discussion of the different ways Shakespeare was being reclaimed by the different cultures, and the way cultural discourse illuminates and redefines conversations about Shakespeare both in the American academic discourse among the students at Emory and the cultures abroad, who appropriate the text and translate it in meaningful ways. The interrogation of the text through differing cultural lenses and the subsequent performances that resulted add a layering to American academic understandings of Shakespeare, especially at the undergraduate level, that I think are often missing.

An interesting question was asked during the Q&A, that I think is worth dwelling on, and that Sheila and Kevin handled well. What happens when 'the Academy' enters spaces that are resistant to it, that have had (and possibly continue to have) poor experiences with exploitive presences? Their interest in opening conversation through the digital, as opposed to packaging Shakespeare, is refreshing and part of their success. Their continued focus on tailoring each program to the technological level available and their ability to not only make these programs work but open dialogue in interesting, explosive ways speaks volumes. 

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